If you asked the average Sonic fan what the best Sonic game of all time was, chances are Sonic 3 (& Knuckles) would frequently be the top pick. Incidentally, this same game is also the most requested game to get a remaster, yet has received none of the love that Sonic 1 or Sonic 2 has gotten in recent years. This changed when one talented programmer by the name of Eukaryot took it upon himself to provide what may be the definitive version of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and unlike other mods and ROM hacks, this one requires you to legally own the game!
Sonic 3 AIR (Angel Island Revisited) is an ambitious project that takes the source code of the Steam port and reconfigures it into an enhanced experience akin to the mobile ports of Sonic 1, 2 and CD by Christian Whitehead. While SEGA has not been known to pursue fans for their modding projects, Eukaryot is further able to avoid any potential legal hurdles by requiring the player to have purchased a copy of Sonic 3 & Knuckles from Steam and have it in their library. Once Sonic 3 AIR sees that the purchased ROM is available in the local directory, it will proceed to run the game with all the new bells and whistles.
Aside from the required ownership of the game, what sets Sonic 3 AIR apart from other ROM hacks is a widescreen aspect ratio, various gameplay and visual tweaks (such as CRT scanlines and background blurring), a robust time attack mode and most importantly, mod support. Sonic 3 AIR has a robust mod manager that seamlessly integrates with “Game Banana,” a popular site for hosting mods for various games. With this, you can go beyond minor tweaks and heavily alter the game with new characters, soundtrack swapping, different gameplay modes and even level design changes. Alongside the steady updates made by Eukaryot, the modding scene is what’s keeping Sonic 3 AIR fresh and relevant. I’m partial to the Sonic 2 sprite mod, personally.
Additionally, Sonic 3 AIR incorporates achievements that act as keys to unlock even more tweaks, modes and even add extra abilities to Sonic’s moveset, such as Sonic CD’s Super Peel-Out and Sonic Mania’s Drop-Dash. Once you unlock the Drop-Dash in Sonic 3, it’s hard to play it any other way. There’s so many improvements and additions here that it’s difficult to argue that this isn’t the definitive way to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles on your PC; in many cases it goes beyond the level of refinements that the other Classic Sonic titles have enjoyed.
When I’m not sinking my free time into Sonic Mania, I’m engrossing myself into Sonic 3 AIR with it’s huge array of improvements; and all with the clear conscious of knowing that SEGA received their due payment via Steam. With a plethora of options to change up the experience, extra modes and incredible mod support, I imagine I’ll be playing Sonic 3 AIR for many years to come… and you should too! Follow Eukaryot on Twitter and check out the official page for Sonic 3 AIR and make sure you’ve bought Sonic 3 & Knuckles on Steam.